Monday, 28 September 2009

Children Learning Words

* For children, a new word usually refers to a whole object, not part of it or a quality the object possesses.
* This corroborates Katherine Nelsons theory that most of a child's first words are nouns.
* There is some logic to this as most concrete nouns fit into the four categories that Spelke noted: cohesion, continuity, solidity, contact. Basically, children like objects that are clearly defined in shape, that don’t disappear, which are solid, and which don’t have a life of their own (unless they’re animate – animals or people).
* Children also apply a couple of other strategies: the type assumption and the basic level assumption.
* The type assumption prevents children from underextending most new words. In other words, if they are told that the new thing they have seen is a dog, they don’t assume that only that particular dog is a dog and every other dog isn’t.
* The basic level assumption prevents the child from overextending meanings too far. So, once a child has recognised what the noun ‘dog’ refers to, they seem to understand that it also refers to things with similar properties (appearance, behaviour, size).
* So a dog shouldn’t be a horse, a cat or a meerkat… But it doesn’t always work that way, and the mistakes children make seem to shed some light on the processes they’re using to distinguish these differences.
* This is where network-building comes in, when a child learns about the hierarchical nature of words (E.g Dog - Collie/Labrador)

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